I’m writing to you all from North Canton, Ohio right now! I have ventured my way back home after an emotional goodbye to Chicago and while I would love some much needed R&R, the work is just beginning for me. I left last Saturday and one of the hardest goodbyes I had was with one of my first-year mentees, Diego.
In the Cinema Art + Science graduate programs, each new first-year is assigned a second-year mentor. The relationship is voluntary and completely what you make of it but it is a great opportunity to have someone to look to for advice, wisdom, and support. Not to mention, it’s a great opportunity to make a new friend and collaborator right off the bat, which is key in the filmmaking industry.
As a first-year, I was super lucky to have a wonderful mentor, Joe Rubin, who met with me every week to catch up on how the program was going, where my biggest struggles/successes were, and general support for all things producing and Chicago related. The relationship was hugely rewarding with insight from someone who had already accomplished the things I was about to set out to do and it pushed me to take on things I might not have taken on otherwise.
Joe trusted me to be the line producer for his thesis film, Punk Bitch!, and along the way, allowed me to get one of the first hands-on set experiences I had at the school. His knowledge and support gave me confidence when I wasn’t sure I was quite ready to take on certain challenges. His friendship toward me was a huge comfort and he even opened his home to me on Thanksgiving when I was otherwise going to be alone. To this day, Joe has been a great influence and having a mentor-mentee relationship with him was one of the best experiences I will take with me from Columbia.
As I moved on to be a second-year, I had the awesome opportunity to mentor two first-year students, Diego and Lauren, both of whom worked on my thesis film, At Papa’s. While I hope I gave them both the support that they needed during their first year at the school, I know that they will both go on to be great mentors to the new incoming batch of producers.
Diego served as the second assistant director on my thesis film and he is presently my line producer for another thesis film called Use Your Oui Oui. Diego is a Fulbright Scholar all the way from Montevideo, Uruguay. He’s a brilliant, hard-working, and talented young producer and he’s a face that you should watch out for.
Lauren was a huge asset to me as a production assistant on my thesis film and I’ll never forget the first time we took the long train ride on the red line from school together. She’s an incredible talent, reliable, and is probably one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Her passion and ease with collaboration will take her far.
As I look back, I can’t help but think of all the wonderful things they have taught me in return. Even as our cohort headed to Los Angeles, mentorship was stressed as a big part of “breaking into the industry.” One of my favorite professors, Suzanne Lyons, emphasized the importance of continuing to find mentors through every phase of your professional career.
“Who makes a good mentor?” she asks. “Anyone you respect who is in a position to advise you on how to accomplish your goal.”
For those of you incoming first-years, for those of you who are about to become mentors, and for those of you who are looking for a mentor—take a look at these ten tips for a successful mentor-mentee relationship. I guarantee it will be one of the best things you do in the next year if you take it seriously. It was for me.